Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Summer fruit arrives!

I previously shared about Abundant Harvest, the weekly organic produce box I receive. Recently, the box came with 15 pounds of apriums.  Turns out an aprium is three-quarters apricot and one-quarter plum.  We have been eating apriums right and left in this house ever since.

I had to come up with at least one baked apricot - or in this case, aprium - recipe before they were all eaten.  Here is a down-home dessert to help use up your abundance of summer fruit when it happens.

Apricot Strawberry Cobbler

2 pounds apricots (about 16), pitted and sliced
1 pint strawberries, hulled and quartered
1 cup unbleached flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cold butter
1 cup lowfat buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Coat 9 by 13-inch baking pan with nonstick spray.  Place apricots and strawberries in pan.

In mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  With pastry blender or fork, cut in butter until mixture is crumbly.  Measure buttermilk and whisk in vanilla.  Add to flour mixture and stir until just combined.  Drop by spoonfuls over fruit.

Bake 30 minutes, or until top begins to turn golden.  Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes.    Serve warm with lowfat ice cream or whipped topping, if desired.  Makes 10 servings, 2 points plus each.

Note:  An assortment of any soft summer fruits will work in this recipe.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Kabocha Soup

I notice many soup recipes instruct us to cook the ingredients for awhile, transfer to a blender to make the soup smooth, then return to a pot on the stove to heat.  I had an idea: why not blend all the ingredients together, then simply heat and serve?  This soup involves roasting the squash first, but then the soup comes together very quickly.

If you can't find kabocha, butternut squash will substitute just fine.  The two have a similar flavor and texture.  This soup is velvety smooth, and the peanuts, if used, add a nice crunchy contrast.

Kabocha Soup

1 kabocha squash, about 2 pounds
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons reduced fat peanut butter
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder, or more if desired
Dry roasted peanuts for garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Poke holes with knife all over squash and place on foil-lined baking sheet.  Bake one hour and ten minutes or until knife inserts easily into squash.  Set aside until cool enough to handle, then scoop flesh into blender and discard skin.

Add all remaining ingredients except peanuts to blender and blend until smooth.  Pour into large saucepan and place over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, for five minutes.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with peanuts, if desired.  Makes 3 1/2 cups or 4 servings, each about 3/4 cup with 1 point plus.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A healthy good morning to you!

It is an exciting challenge when someone requests a recipe.  My kitchen becomes a busy place of creativity.  This bran muffin came about when my friend became discouraged by the cost of "healthy" muffins in the grocery store.  In a few minutes, you have a batch of budget-friendly breakfast treats.

Bran Muffins

1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup unprocessed wheat bran
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup nonfat or unsweetened nondairy milk
1/3 cup applesauce
2 tablespoons canola or other mild oil
1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar
1 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup frozen blueberries, unthawed, optional
1/3 cup seedless raisins, optional
1/2 to 1 cup any other fruit, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat 12 muffin cups with nonstick spray or line with paper muffin liners; set aside.

In large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, bran, baking soda, and brown sugar.  In another medium bowl, combine milk, applesauce, oil, vinegar, molasses, and vanilla.  Stir liquid into dry ingredients just until combined.  If desired, stir in blueberries or raisins or other fruit.

Spoon batter evenly into muffin cups, each about 2/3 full.  Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until toothpick inserted in a muffin comes out clean.  Makes 12 muffins, 3 points plus each.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Caprese Chicken

Keeping to my theme of food that is quick and light, here is your main dish in one pan.  Add a veggie or salad and some bread and you have an easy, complete dinner.

A caprese salad comprised of tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella is a favorite this time of year when tomatoes begin to look good in the market.  Usually you find the salad saturated in olive oil, but this cooked translation has none at all!  Give it a try on a night when time is short, and enjoy.

Caprese Chicken

4 5-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
Garlic salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
8 fresh basil leaves, slivered
2 ounces part-skim Mozzarella cheese, shredded

Coat large nonstick skillet with nonstick spray and place on medium-high heat.  Sprinkle both sides chicken breasts with Italian seasoning, garlic salt, and pepper.  Place in skillet and cook until first side is golden; flip and cook until other side is also golden.

Cover chicken with chopped tomatoes, basil slivers, and cheese.  Place lid on skillet and reduce heat to medium low.  Cook for about 8 more minutes, until chicken is no longer pink and cheese is melted, being careful not to overcook.  Makes 4 servings, 5 points plus each.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Simple and sweet!

It happens once in awhile.  A craving hits.  The craving is for cheesecake.  You've got to do something and do it fast.  Make this simple recipe and be satisfied.  Know you haven't broken your calorie bank.

Baby Cheesecakes

4 ounces Neufchatel cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup fat free ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup fat free egg substitute or 3 egg whites
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3  Biscoff or other simple biscuit-type cookies
2 teaspoons powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place 6 paper liners in muffin tin; set aside.  In mixing bowl, beat Neufchatel, ricotta, and sugar until smooth.  Beat in egg substitute or egg whites, lemon juice, and vanilla.

Place 1/2 Biscoff in bottom of each muffin paper.  Pour batter evenly into the 6 cups.  Bake 22 to 24 minutes, just until cheesecakes no longer jiggle.  Cool completely and refrigerate for at least one hour.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.   Makes 6 cheesecakes, 3 points plus each.

Friday, May 13, 2011

A spicy change of pace: Indian flavors

If you are new to Indian flavors, this simple dish is a nice introduction.  It's not too spicy, though you can amend it to your preference, and it incorporates warm seasonings - cumin, curry powder, and garam masala - common to Indian cooking.

At first glance, two teaspoons salt seems like too much.  However, I tested the dish with less and found the larger amount necessary to bring all the seasonings together to achieve the proper flavor.  If you have time, make this a day ahead so the flavors can meld.

Potato Carrot Curry

1 pound potatoes (2 large), peeled and cubed
3 medium carrots, peeled and cubed
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons garam masala
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more, if desired)
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans
1 cup light coconut milk

Place potatoes and carrots in large saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, lower heat, and cover.  Simmer about 15 minutes until vegetables are just tender; drain.

While potatoes and carrots simmer, coat large nonstick skillet with nonstick spray.  Add onions and garlic and cook over medium heat until onions are translucent.  Stir in ginger, cumin, curry powder, garam masala, salt, and cayenne; continue stirring for one minute to allow spices to coat vegetables.

Add tomatoes, garbanzo beans, coconut milk, and drained potatoes and carrots to spiced mixture.  Bring back to a simmer and continue to cook for 15 minutes.  Serve in soup bowl as is or ladled over rice.  Makes 6 1/2 cups, or 6 (just over 1 cup) servings, 3 points plus each.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Strawberry Coffee Cake

Have you noticed strawberries are for sale everywhere these days?  I have, and I was so excited to bring a beautiful basket home from the market the other day.  Lo and behold, the flavor was blah.  Instead of tossing them, I made coffee cake!

Inspiration for this recipe came from one I saw on allrecipes.com.  Of course I lightened it up to fit my own health guidelines.  The coffee cake was a hit with my family!

Strawberry Coffee Cake

1 cup unbleached flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup Splenda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup nonfat milk
1 egg
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 cups sliced fresh strawberries

1/4 cup unbleached flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Coat 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick spray; set aside.  In mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, Splenda, baking powder, and salt.  While your ingredients are out, measure flour and sugar for topping in small bowl and set aside.

Measure milk into a measuring cup.  Whisk in egg and melted butter.  Stir into flour mixture in mixing bowl until just combined.  Spread batter on bottom of prepared baking pan.  Place sliced strawberries in one layer on top of batter.

Add 2 tablespoons butter to other topping ingredients and stir with fork until crumbly.  Sprinkle evenly over top of strawberries.  Bake 25 to 30 minutes until top is golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Serve immediately.  Makes 9 servings, 4 points plus each.

Note: As usual, if you choose to abstain from Splenda, use 1/4 cup additional sugar in the batter.  However, the change will add one point plus to each serving.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Blue Cheese Smashed Potatoes

I love mashed potatoes, buttery and creamy and smooth.  Once in awhile, however, it's fun to change it up.  This version keeps the skins on and the potatoes are smashed instead of mashed to retain some structure.  The blue cheese flavor adds a different dimension, but any of the Laughing Cow cheese wedges would do. 

 Blue Cheese Smashed Potatoes

1 1/2 pounds white or red potatoes (not russet)
4 blue cheese-flavored Laughing Cow cheese wedges
1/4 cup nonfat milk
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

Cut potatoes into 2-inch chunks, leaving skin on.  Place in large saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender; drain.  Add cheese wedges, milk, salt, and pepper.  Using potato masher, smash potatoes to desired texture while incorporating other ingredients.  Taste and adjust seasonings; serve immediately.  Makes 4 1-cup servings, 4 points plus each.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Light Carrot Cake??

If ever you and I would have a discussion about favorite desserts, you would immediately discover that mine is carrot cake.  For years, my requested birthday cake has been "Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing," and for years, my wonderful mother has indulged me.  Yesterday, a craving hit.  I knew I had to have carrot cake.

No, I did not pull out my mother's fantastic recipe with pineapple and raisins and the richest, most decadent icing in the world.  Instead, I took a simple idea I learned from other Weight Watchers and made the cake, then lightened up cream cheese icing to make it less indulgent.  It worked!  Give this a try the next time the craving hits you.

Light Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

1 carrot cake box mix (I used Betty Crocker Supermoist)
1 15-ounce can pumpkin
1/2 cup water
4 ounces Neufchatel (light) cream cheese, room temperature
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat standard bundt pan with nonstick spray; set aside.  In mixing bowl, beat cake mix, pumpkin, and water on low speed until combined.  Scrape sides of bowl with spatula, then beat 2 minutes on medium speed.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 35 to 40 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack.

Beat Neufchatel with butter in mixing bowl until smooth.  Beat in powdered sugar and vanilla.  Spread over top of cooled cake allowing it to fall down sides.  Makes 24 servings just big enough to satisfy a craving, 3 points plus each, or 16 more substantial servings at 5 points plus each.